Lakeside, White Rock, Split Rock, Elephant Head
Antelope Island, on the east side of the Great Salt Lake, can be biked
virtually year round. Early spring and late fall are best. The
island tends to be buggy in late spring and early summer. In summer, ride the
day after a rain storm -- the rain hardens the loose debris kicked up by horses on the
View west, showing the two geographic
halves of the island -- younger rock on the north, old metamorphic rock on the
south. May 18, 1998 by Bruce Argyle
There are several riding options on the island. The easiest
and most popular route is the White Rock Bay loop. Other rides include
Split Rock Bay (doubletrack but with brutal climbing), Elephant Head
(intermediate singletrack), East Side, (singletrack above the eastern
shoreline), and Lakeside (singletrack with sections of extremely techy
Bruce rolls westbound on a smoother section of the
Lakeside trail in 2017.
The mountainous south end of the
island (seen on the left of the picture) is mostly dark
highly-metamorphosed rock such as quartzite and schist from the Precambrian Era
(3.5 to 0.5 billion years ago), while the north end is
sedimentary rock such as Tufa, a conglomerate laid down by prehistoric Lake
Bonneville. In between there's a band of lighter-colored quartzite -- about half
a billion years younger than the Precambrian rock. The
transition from light rock (for example, the quartzite in the photo below) to
dark rock is abrupt.
View from Elephant Head, looking over
Split Rock Bay.
In mid to late spring, you'll find plenty of biting bugs on
Antelope Island, especially where the trail runs near the shoreline. Douse
yourself liberally with bug repellent -- or be prepared to ride very fast
without stopping. When taking the photo at left, I ventured about 50
feet off the trail, and was covered in mosquitoes before I could snap the
Looking west on the White Rock Bay
trail, as spires of Tintic Quartzite rise through the brush. This rock
dates from the
Precambrian Era over a billion years ago.
There's camping at Bridger Bay and White Rock. White Rock
provides direct access to all the west-side trails. For non-riders, there are picnic
tables and nice swimming
beaches with bathrooms and shaded picnic areas on the north end of the
island. The visitor's center can sell you a Coke
or a T-shirt, or teach you about the history and geology of the island.
Arriving at the south end of the Lakeside trail at
the White Rock campground.
Antelope Island functions as a game preserve.
Drones are not allowed. Among the wildlife in this nature preserve are 900 bison. The big guys
aren't usually aggressive, but they are wild, and they are dangerous. And they're definitely BIG. Don't get close
during the calving or breeding seasons.
One of Antelope Island's permanent residents eyeballs a
biker. Photo May 18,
1998 by Bruce.
Ride from Bridger Bay to Elephant Head
If the above video does not appear on your
browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking
The Lakeside Trail is an excellent challenge for skilled rock-riders.
Intermediates can still enjoy the trail by walking their bikes through the
tough sections. There are 3 miles of curving
single-track beginning at the campground at Bridger Bay on the far north end of the
island, and extending to the White Rock Campground on the west side.
North (Bridger Bay) trailhead GPS N 41° 02.394' W 112°
15.727'. South (White Rock Bay) trailhead GPS N 41° 01.669' W 112° 15.060'.
Dominic Bria hits the
Lakeside Trail. Photo Bruce Argyle March 18, 1999.
The middle mile of the ride is insanely rocky and rates an "expert" in
technical difficulty, but you can easily hike through the areas that make you nervous. You
can ride the trail as an out-and-back, or head overland on the paved roads
to make a loop.
Handlebar view on Lakeside. No way forward except
over the rocks.
One of my favorite rides is an 18-mile out-and-back starting
at Bridger Bay. After doing Lakeside, I head south past the campground to
the Bone Road trail and climb to Elephant Head. There's around 1200
vertical feet of climbing. Nice views and enough techy riding to satisfy.
Rolling up and down through ancient boulders.
White Rock Loop
The White Rock loop starts at the backcountry trailhead south of the
White Rock campground. The lariat loop is 6.5 miles with around 600
vertical feet of climbing. This is the least techy ride on the island, so
it attracts the most riders.
Heading through the backcountry gate to White Rock.
There are maps of the trail options at the kiosk. Straight ahead is Bone
Road; to the left is White Rock.
The "old" White Rock loop included doubletrack
that is now the Bone Road trail. This doubletrack is the main horse route
on the island. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Just expect some
loose surface and horse poop on Bone Road.
The southeast corner of the White Rock loop has a doubletrack connector
to southern Bone Road for those who are continuing to Elephant Head or Split Rock.
Arriving at the junction between Bone Road and the
Loop Connector from White Rock.
On a short side-trip from the middle of the White Rock
loop, climb up to Beacon Knob. Impressive views 360 degrees!
Dominic rides through the quartzite boulders on the
sideslope of White Rock.
Split Rock Bay Loop
Split Rock is a 5 mile doubletrack that descends from the ridgeline
east of Elephant Head to the shoreline, then climbs back out. The route
isn't really techy, it's just steep. You'll climb a steep hill to get to
the loop, then climb an even steeper hill to get back out once you drop
down to Split Rock.
Climbing up the doubletrack.
To reach the Split Rock loop, head out the backcountry gate.
Now choose your route. You can take either of the two limbs of the White
rock loop (then the connector trail), or the shorter Bone Road trail. When
the connector trail meets Bone Road, head south up the grunt-of-a-hill to
Just a few feet after crossing the ridge, the doubletrack splits. This
is the loop. The climb out of Split Rock Bay is easiest when done in the clockwise
direction. So after you pass Elephant Head, keep left for the descent.
Grunting uphill. Not the steepest part of the ride.
Elephant Head is an intermediate-tech singletrack that forks off the
Bone Road trail on the ridgeline (just before Bone Road descends to the Split
Rock loop). It's a 2.8-mile out-and-back to a viewpoint.
Leaving Bone Road for the singletrack to Elephant
You'll climb about 600 vertical on Bone Road to reach the
ridgeline where Elephant Head starts. Up-and-down riding adds about 300
vertical feet on the singletrack. There are a couple of tech challenges on
the trail, but nothing an intermediate couldn't handle (when outgoing, the one gnarly drop
has a ride-around path).
Banging through some of the white rock on the
ridgeline. Black rock coming up.
The view from Elephant Head is awesome. If you're doing
Antelope Island, this trail is a must-do.
Westbound on the ridge. Our destination is the
opposite side of the dark hill.
The East Side trail is singletrack curving along the eastern
shore of the island. This is a flatter area with views of the Wasatch Front
across the flat bay.
This trail is still being extended at the south end. To find the trailhead, fork
left as you reach the island (near the marina). A tiny ways down the road, at
the next fork, you'll find the trail on the left side of the road.
Antelope Island is a good early-season
ride. Get there before the bugs, and while the foothill trails are still
snow-covered or muddy. The rock near the tires is tufa, deposited by old
The East Side trail is 11 miles to Fielding Garr ranch with moderate
up-and-down riding. It's a fairly strenuous outing, but less-strong riders
can turn around at any time. The official end is at the ranch.
Rolling over boulders. Expect to bang your pedals. A
The East Side route is not as gnarly as Lakeside, but you
will have a few boulder challenges. It's the longest continuous route on
the island, with the option of continuing south to the southern tip of the
island on doubletrack after passing Fielding Garr ranch.
Views. A big reason for coming to Antelope.
there: Just drive I-15 towards Syracuse (south of Ogden, north of Salt Lake
City). Exit at the "Antelope Island" sign and turn west (away from the
mountains, towards the lake). You'll be on Antelope Drive. Just drive west until you hit
the lake. There's a $10 fee (as of 2017) that includes payment to use the causeway over the lake, and
your admission to the state park. With payment of the fee, you can ask for a
road and trail
map of the island if you need it. Roads are well-marked.
Bridger Bay (Lakeside): Keep to the right at every road fork.
White Rock: Follow the signs on the main road.